I have always been interested in birth order; what it means, how it affects personality, development, career. Baby Daddy and I are both first borns and I often wonder if it contributes to some of our headbutting and also our understanding of each other.
There is plenty of research claiming first borns have an upper hand on their siblings; higher IQs, better test scores, better education, and ultimately higher salaries. 21 of the first 23 astronauts into space were firstborns. Nobel Prize winners and National Merit scholars are are also disproportionately made up of firstborns (Sorry Kell, you lose).
Of course this isn’t always (or even mostly) true, right?
According to Dr. Kevin Leman, author of The Birth Order Book – Why You Are the Way You Are, it is. His framework is outlined below:
First Child: perfectionist, reliable, conscientious, a list maker, well organized, hard driving, a natural leader, critical, serious, scholarly, logical, doesn’t like surprises, a techie.
Middle Child: mediator, compromising, diplomatic, avoids conflict, independent, loyal to peers, has many friends, a maverick, secretive, used to not having attention.
Youngest Child: manipulative, charming, blames others, attention seeker, tenacious, people person, natural salesperson, precocious, engaging, affectionate, loves surprises.
Only Child: little adult by age seven, very thorough, deliberate, high achiever, self-motivated, fearful, cautious, voracious reader, black-and-white thinker, talks in extremes, can’t bear to fail, has very high expectations for self, more comfortable with people who are older or younger.
It’s no small thing that family scrapbooks are usually stuffed with pictures and report cards of the firstborn and successively fewer of the later-borns. Waylon could circle the earth twice with all the pictures I’ve taken of him, and he’s only a few months old. Educational opportunities can be unevenly shared as well, particularly in families that can afford the tuition bills of only one child. Catherine Salmon, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Redlands in Redlands, Calif., laments that even today she finds it hard to collect enough subjects for birth-order studies from the student body alone, since the campus population is typically overweighted with eldest sibs. “Families invest a lot in the firstborn,” she says (source).
With all these highs come the invariable lows. Many first borns report feelings of guilt and stress over the pressures of always being #1. We can also be moody, insensitive, intimidating, and bossy. We can be a bit of a ‘know-it-all’ as well, and are often poor at delegating, largely because we don’t trust other people as much as we trust ourselves.
These are not flattering observations, which begs the question: with two first borns raising a first born, is there any chance this kid will be normal?
Part of me believes it’s easy to read these kind of stats the same way we read horoscopes or fortune cookies. It’s easy to make something out of anything. And yet I do see these trends in myself and others.
What are your thoughts? Do any of the first, middle, or last born stereotypes apply to your siblings or kids?